Lawrence R. Smith


The blades of a machine, leather hammered
into furniture, elliptical as the alley where
it was born. There is a holy tooth of darkness
in these streets, an ecstatic night music 
with no key, as dangerous as the day’s 
indelible sky slicing through your heart.
The cargoes here will change your life, 
plot arsons against American sanity.
A music, a prayer to totality, like an ocean 
of headlong dolphins demanding joy.

Brothers in djellabas, kissing each other’s cheeks, 
or pulling knives, as you are lost without compass
in a sea of steel, hash, the scent of mint tea.

The covered women in the street, 
or a glimpse through a Casbah open door 
of the woman, naked and afraid, 
and a cobra coiled in a basket.


Voice seeds a mountain’s birth,
its iron silence, stirring 
the map around torn edges,
where an elemental roll, a hub,
an act of collection, conspires
with bee clouds of fumes
to rival the grumbling of the dead.

In a watchful grove of holy lemons
the earth shakes with uncertainty,
retreats to a dream of open sea,
where all mountains live beneath
seeing, and the gods dive into
their deepest breath of darkness.

Lawrence R. Smith edited and published the now retired Calibanonline and its print parent, Caliban. He is the author of Annie’s Soup Kitchen (U. of Oklahoma Press, 2003), The Map of Who We Are (U. of Oklahoma Press, 1997), and The Plain Talk of the Dead (Montparnasse Editions, 1988). He has translated Antonio Porta's The King of the Storeroom (Wesleyan U. Press, 1992) and, with Michelle Yeh, No Trace of the Gardener, poems by Yang Mu (Yale U. Press, 1998). He edited and translated The New Italian Poetry: 1945 to the Present (U. of California Press, 1981)
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